LAWRENCE — University of Kansas Associate Research Professor Amy McCart shared her vision of inclusive education and how it might impact national policy with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his senior staff. She was one of only three education experts invited to Washington to discuss how the administration could shape federal policy to encourage schools to prepare all students for college and careers — including those students with disabilities.
McCart is the director of technical assistance for the SWIFT Center (Schoolwide Integrated Framework for Transformation), an ambitious national K-8 school reform initiative funded by the largest grant ($24.5 million) in KU history from the U.S. Department of Education Special Education Programs.
Based on years of KU research in schools around the country led by McCart and Professor of Special Education Wayne Sailor, who directs SWIFT, the flexible use of funding, resources and supports for all children is key to the implementation.
According to McCart, SWIFT is a fundamental departure from the current system that has resulted in bureaucratic “silos” of funding that restrict access to children who could benefit from them: those with and without disabilities as well as non-English speakers.
“SWIFT was front and center in our discussion,” McCart said. “Their message to me was clear — that SWIFT is going to show us how to do this.”
McCart was called on to comment on something called the College and Career Ready Standards, part of the Obama administration’s goals for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (currently the No Child Left Behind Act) that, among other things, mandates equal access to education.
McCart said that educators are often skeptical of teaching students with extensive needs under the proposed standards and that they lack the resources and support to do so.
SWIFT research suggests that this can be done, though, said McCart. First, by leveraging all resources for all children through a multi-tiered system of support underpinned by positive behavioral support and interventions along with collaborative teaching.
“By linking individual learning outcomes to the standards, we can eliminate the need for the bureaucratic aspects of the current process,” she said.
McCart told the top education policy makers that they should begin to align the funding of general and special education toward a fully integrated national education system.
“When we create a climate where all students belong, where educators have support and resources and families are true partners, the differences are profound,” said McCart. “In the United States, equity in education means teaching every single student, however they come.”